The Marriage Book

The Marriage Book

by Nicky and Sila Lee


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Full of practical advice, this bestselling book by Nicky and Sila Lee is easy to read and designed to prepare, build, and even mend marriages. The Marriage Book is essential reading for any married or engaged couple. This resource addresses questions like:

  • How can we be happily married to one person for our entire life?
  • How do we resolve conflict?
  • How can we discover and rediscover sexual intimacy?

The Marriage Course is a series of seven sessions, designed to help couples invest in their relationship and build a strong marriage. It serves as a bridge between the church and local community by recognizing the need to go beyond the social, as well as physical, walls of the church to help couples with their relationships.

Marriage Course is easy to run; the talks are available on DVD (sold separately) and each guest and leader receives a manual. If you enjoy hosting people and have a passion for strengthening family life, you could run a course!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934564653
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 01/28/2009
Pages: 345
Sales rank: 562,666
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Nicky & Sila Lee have been married for over forty years and have four children. They are on the staff at Holy Trinity Brompton, London, UK. Over the last 35 years, they have spoken to thousands on the subject of marriage and family life, authored The Marriage Book and The Parenting Book, and created The Marriage Course, The Pre-Marriage Course, The Parenting Children Course and The Parenting Teenagers Course.

Read an Excerpt


Taking a Long View

There is a woman in bed beside me. Right this moment I could reach out my hand and touch her, as easily as I touch myself, and as I think about this, it is more staggering than any mountain or moon. It is even more staggering, I think, than if this woman happened instead to be an angel (which, come to think of it, she might well be). There are only two factors which prevent this situation from being so overpoweringly awesome that my heart would explode just trying to take it in: one is that I have woken up just like this, with this same woman beside me, hundreds of times before; and the other is that millions of other men and women are waking up beside each other, just like this, each and every day all around the world, and have been for thousands of years.

Mike Mason

Marriage is a unique opportunity. We have the chance to share every aspect of our life with another human being. We have promised to stick together through the highs and lows, and out of the security of our mutual promise, we dare to reveal everything about ourselves.

We relate to each other in our common humanity, feeling each other's pain and covering each other's weaknesses. We rejoice in each other's strengths and delight in each other's successes. We are given a counselor, a companion, a best friend — in short, a partner through life. And if we are patient enough, kind enough, and unselfish enough, we shall discover that each of us is inexhaustibly rich.

Marriage has brought untold joy to millions and throughout history has been celebrated around the world in ceremony, poetry, prose, and song.

What is marriage?

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

Marriage is about two people being joined together to become one, and is therefore the closest, most intimate relationship of which human beings are capable. Some might object that the parent-child relationship is closest, given that the child's life begins within the mother. However, a healthy parent-child relationship is to be one of increasing separation and growing independence with each child leaving the parental nest to make a home of their own. The marriage relationship is altogether the other way round. Two people, at one time strangers to each other, meet and subsequently get married. They enter into a relationship marked, at its best, by an increasing interdependence.

John Bayley writes about his fifty years of marriage to his late wife in A Memoir of Iris Murdoch. Towards the end she suffered from Alzheimer's disease, through which he nursed her himself:

Looking back, I separate us with difficulty. We seem always to have been together ... But where Iris is concerned my own memory, like a snug-fitting garment, seems to have zipped itself up to the present second. As I work in bed early in the morning, typing on my old portable with Iris quietly asleep beside me, her presence as she now is seems as it always was, and as it always should be. I know she must once have been different, but I have no true memory of a different person.

This process of growing together is not automatic. Most couples come into marriage with big expectations. As they leave their wedding through a shower of confetti and meander off into the sunset, they cannot imagine ever not wanting to be together. The long-term reality is different and, potentially, far better. Both husband and wife must be ready to build their marriage.

Each stage of the process brings its own challenges and opportunities. In the early days we may be shocked by the things that we discover about each other that had not been apparent during the heady days of courtship and engagement.

For ourselves, even though we had known each other for four years prior to getting married, we both had to make adjustments in the light of what married life revealed: irritating habits, unexpected behaviors, values which differed from our own.

The first lesson of marriage is to accept our husband or wife as they are, rather than trying to make them into the person we had hoped they would be. This mutual acceptance must continue as the passing years will inevitably bring change. As Shakespeare mused:

... Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove.

... Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks ...

Despite our best efforts, we cannot stay the same. Not only will our appearance change, but our thinking will mature, our character will develop and our circumstances will alter. Perhaps the greatest change comes with the arrival of children, although equally challenging is the distressing and traumatic circumstances of infertility. Difficulties in conceiving can put great stress on a marriage and will call for much patience, loving support, and a refusal to blame.

The birth of a baby brings supreme joy but is often accompanied by physical exhaustion. Later on the teenage years can be immense fun and can provide opportunities for growing friendship with our children, but are usually an emotionally exhausting roller-coaster ride. When eventually they move out, we may find ourselves grieving their absence, the expression used by one mother whose children were gradually leaving home in their early twenties.

Through these years of bringing up children, when there is so much to think about at home and at work, it is all too easy to neglect our marriage. Undoubtedly children need to be nurtured, but so too do marriages. When a couple has continued to invest in their relationship and have supported each other through the varying pressures of family life, the final twenty-five years can be the most rewarding.

A friend of ours was questioning her parents recently about their marriage. Her father turned to her mother and said, "I think we've had a great marriage, but there have been difficult bits and wonderful bits." Both agreed that the hardest phase was in their thirties when they had young children, not much money, and tough demands at work. But as the children became increasingly independent (although still very much part of their lives), the pressures eased and they had the time and opportunity to rediscover each other in new ways.

Frank Muir described in his autobiography what this later stage of his long marriage to Polly meant to him:

When brother Chas and I were teenagers, our granny decided to give us signet rings. I hated the idea of wearing jewelry and so she gave me something else.

It was coming up to our forty-seventh wedding anniversary and Polly asked me if there was something I would like to have as a keepsake, and suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted. I said, "Please may I have a wedding ring?"

Polly was very surprised. She said, "Tell me why you suddenly want a wedding ring after all these years and you shall have one."

"Well, I wanted to be sure first," I said, the sort of slick half-joke inappropriate for a rather emotional moment, but it gave me time to think ...

I find it quite impossible to visualize what life without Polly would have been like. Finding Polly was like a fifth rib replacement, or "the other half" we search for to make us complete in the process which Plato called "the desire and pursuit of the whole." It was a wonderfully successful process in my case.

I asked for a wedding ring so that I could wear it as a symbol of the happiness my marriage to Pol has brought. Now that I work at home it is so good just to know that Pol is somewhere around, even though invisible, perhaps bending down picking white currants in the fruit garden and swearing gently, or upstairs shortening a skirt for a granddaughter.

The happy thing is to know that Pol is near.

Why do some marriages stop working?

Tragically we hear of many marriages today that fail to experience this type of togetherness. For some, after the initial few years, a creeping separation causes them to become disconnected. This may happen when children are young and exhausting or when they leave home. In the latter case a couple may discover that they have nothing to say to each other and they divorce, assuming that they should never have gotten married in the first place.

We grow up believing in a romantic myth: if Cinderella happens to meet her Prince Charming, they will live happily ever after. Should friction arise and we fall out of love, then, the myth states, we have married the wrong person and we are destined to live unhappily ever after or get divorced. This message is reinforced for adults through love songs, books, and movies. Underlying this pervasive and dangerous myth is the belief that real love is something that happens to us, over which we have little or no control.

This view is sometimes reported in the press as though it is beyond dispute. A recent article in The Guardian stated that some "lucky souls" keep an intimate marriage relationship going for twenty years or more, but the natural time limit is closer to four years. Once you've lost it, "nothing on earth will bring back that magic spark ... You either feel it or you don't, and that's the end of the matter." In apparent consolation the article ended, "It can always be rekindled for somebody new."

But anyone who has been in a stable marriage for more than a few years will say that a relationship has to be worked at. It has taken more than romantic feelings to keep them together. It has taken a daily choice, on some occasions having to talk through sensitive issues, on others having to control an attraction to another man or woman, and, if the romantic feelings left for a while, in time they returned at a deeper and richer level. Couples who get married thinking that the line in their vows, "for better or for worse," will not really apply to them are in for a shock or a failed marriage.

Marriages that break down are usually the result of a process of growing apart over many years, as this anonymous poem entitled The Wall describes:

Their wedding picture mocked them from the table These two whose lives no longer touched each other.
Many marriages break down, not because of incompatibility, but because the husband and wife have never known what it takes to make their relationship work. In our society, fewer and fewer people grow up seeing a strong relationship modeled between their own parents.

We live in a consumerist age in which people are not used to mending things. If something doesn't work, it is easier and cheaper to buy a new one. Powerful advertising encourages us to focus on wanting what we do not have rather than being grateful for what we do have. It increases the expectation that we should have our desires fulfilled quickly — as in the slogan for the credit card that promised "to take the waiting out of wanting." We are encouraged to believe that fulfilment comes through what we can acquire with as little effort as possible rather than through working at something.

Alvin Toffler, the sociologist and best-selling author, wrote that people today have a "throw-away mentality." They not only have throw-away products, but they make throw-away friends, and it is this mentality which produces throw-away marriages. Marriage is viewed by many today as a temporary contract between a couple for as long as their love lasts. Our culture stresses the freedom of the individual. If the relationship is not personally fulfilling, then it is better to get out. If there is no more love in a marriage, it is better to finish it.

But we are discovering as a society that the consequences are not so easily discarded. The oneness of the marriage bond means that the two people cannot be neatly and painlessly divided. It is like taking two sheets of paper and gluing them together. They become one, and they cannot be separated without causing damage to both.

In a recent interview the actor Michael Caine spoke of the breakup of his first marriage. He was desperately short of money and his wife, Patricia, tried to persuade him to give up the theater: "... rather than relinquish his dreams, he walked away from his marriage." Now he says, if he'd known the anguish involved, "I would have stayed at all costs. If I'd been as strong as Pat I think we could have made it ..." Michael Caine is right. A marriage can be made to work but it takes deliberate and determined action.

For over two years we lived ten feet away from one of London's largest residential developments. In the midst of the din and the dust we have experienced a bird's eye view of each stage of the building from our bedroom window. We saw for ourselves the depth and thoroughness of the work beneath ground level. Over several months, four pile drivers created more than two hundred concrete-filled holes to provide secure foundations. Then, and only then, did the present impressive structure start to go up.

If we want to build a strong marriage, we need to lay deep foundations. To do so takes time and may well produce dust and noise. Progress, at times, will seem painfully slow. New ways of communicating may have to be developed. Sensitive or contentious issues may require discussion. Forgiveness will need to become a habit.

For those who have been married for many years, some underpinning of the foundations may be urgently required. We heard recently of some alterations being made to an Edwardian house in north London. After two weeks one of the builders, alone in the house, felt a shudder go through the ground floor. He ran out of the back door, and as he did so the whole house collapsed in ruins. There are marriages around us which have already collapsed. But we know of others brought back from the brink of disaster to a new experience of love and commitment.

Marriage, like a home, requires maintenance and the occasional minor (or even major) repair, but within both homes and marriages there are endless opportunities to be creative, to do something different, to move things around a bit. A marriage can become static and cause a couple to feel trapped and bored. Marriages thrive on creativity and new initiatives.

For any of us to grow closer as a couple we must be proactive within our marriage. All too often we are only reactive. We react negatively to each other's behavior or comments, blaming each other when things go wrong and retaliating when we are hurt.

This book is intended as a toolkit for building a strong marriage. Each chapter provides a different tool with which you can shape, fix, maintain, or repair your relationship. We believe that by using even one of these tools, you will begin to see improvements.

We hope that as you read and discuss the following chapters you will find it easier to talk together about your marriage. Some will discover wonderful things about their husband or wife that have never been disclosed. Others will recognize areas of their marriage that need attention. Some of the practical application may at first seem contrived, but we know from our own experience that by persevering it becomes a normal and natural part of our relationship.

The advice columnist Claire Rayner said about her marriage to her husband Desmond:

We'll have been married forty-three years this year. It wasn't an accident. It wasn't luck. The harder you work at your marriage, the luckier you get. We have become a couple, not two individuals. We have fun together, more fun than we have apart. I still fancy him and, thank God, he still seems to fancy me.


Excerpted from "The Marriage Book"
by .
Copyright © 2000 Nicky and Sila Lee.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword, vii,
Acknowledgments, ix,
Introduction, 1,
Section 1: Building Strong Foundations,
Chapter 1: Taking a Long View, 17,
Chapter 2: Planning to Succeed, 28,
Section 2: The Art of Communication,
Chapter 3: How to Talk More Effectively, 45,
Chapter 4: How to Listen More Effectively, 58,
Section 3: Love in Action,
Chapter 5: The Five Expressions of Love, 75,
Chapter 6: Words and Actions, 84,
Chapter 7: Time, Presents, and Touch, 93,
Section 4: Resolving Conflict,
Chapter 8: Appreciating Our Differences, 105,
Chapter 9: Focusing on the Issue, 124,
Chapter 10: Centering Our Lives, 135,
Section 5: The Power of Forgiveness,
Chapter 11: How Can Intimacy Be Lost?, 149,
Chapter 12: How Can Intimacy Be Restored?, 161,
Section 6: Parents and In-laws,
Chapter 13: How to Get Along with Our Parents and In-laws, 181,
Chapter 14: How to Leave Behind Parental Control, 201,
Chapter 15: How to Address the Effects of Childhood Pain, 213,
Section 7: Good Sex,
Chapter 16: Sex — What Is It All About?, 231,
Chapter 17: Six Qualities for Great Lovers, 240,
Chapter 18: Protecting Our Marriage, 256,
Chapter 19: Keeping Sex Alive, 266,
Section 8: Epilogue,
Chapter 20: The Opportunity of a Lifetime, 278,
Appendix 1: Ready for Marriage?, 284,
Appendix 2: Engagement, Sex, and the Honeymoon, 291,
Appendix 3: Working Out a Budget, 301,
Appendix 4: Praying Together, 307,
Endnotes, 313,
Bibliography, 319,

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